Laos and end of trip

Towards the end of the 3 months in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, this space to note stuff got sidelined a bit.

Day 8 – Nakay to Konglor

Day 9 – Konglor to Pakxan

Day 10 – Pakxan to Vientiane

I completed the Thakhek loop with Phoebe. There was a cool spring on the way and Konglor caves. Both of them were quite amazing. There were nice jumping spots in the spring, and the caves were a long boat ride and an entire stretch inside.

The journey continued towards the capital Vientiane. Phoebe got 3-4 flat tires in quick succession. It was unreal. None for so long and then suddenly she goes haywire few days before I have to sell her. I managed to somehow get her to Vientiane.

In Vientiane, I started looking for buyers for Phoebe. It had been 10 days already on the bike and I felt I’ve had my fill. Plus if you look at the map of Laos, the route further up looked like Vang Vieng -> Luang Prabang -> Nong Khiaw -> Luang Namtha. Luang Namtha being way in the north. Good place to sell the bike is either Vientiane, the capital, or Luang Prabang where people from Vietnam come in from.

I managed to sell Phoebe for a really sweet price in Vientiane. I was adamant at selling her for a high price since I could use her for a few more days and sell her for less which would still save me bus money. It worked. This also meant my travel mate Kevin and I had to part ways after a real good time together in Laos. He left for Vang Vieng on his bike while I took the bus to Luang Prabang.

On reaching Luang Prabang over a night bus I found someone who was headed to Luang Namtha. Since I had no plans of my own I joined the girl and left for Luang Namtha the same night.

I did enjoy the Kuang Si waterfalls in Luang Prabang during the day, which were quite unreal.

I did a 3D/2N trek in Luang Namtha with a local tour agency. It was pretty good and cost around 90$ with food included. Some very nice river water to swim in.

The bus to Luang Namtha dropped us of at 2:30 am. Half asleep I heard the Lao bus guys say “Nam-tha, Nam-tha” and I dreamily wondered that this must be the word for toilet. I went down to pee and saw there was a board for Luang Namtha in front of me. It was quite an eye opener at that moment. Both of us were expecting to be dropped off at 5-6 in the morning. We chilled by the side of the road close to a guesthouse till 6. The bus was so small that I had to sleep diagonal on a seat of two to fit. Thank goodness I wasn’t sharing my seat with anyone.

Headed to the small town of Nong Khiaw after this which truly stole my heart. So much so that I seriously contemplated buying land there to set up a summer home. The logistics of this are pretty hard to set up.

Also went to Muang Noi which is a town an hour boat ride up from Nong Khiaw. Pretty similar appeal as Nong Khiaw.

Last place on the list was Vang Vieng. This is famed to be a party town but you can see nice spots with very few people if you know how.

I flew out of Vientiane to India after this.

I swam in fresh waters in Laos for good 17-20 days out of the month I was there for. It’s amongst my favourite things to do.

My trip cost me 1,40,000 INR in total for 3 months. Which is around 700$ a month average. Pretty good.

(This post is on a new domain)

Phoebe and I made it to Cambodia!!

Woohoo! 

Vietnam motorbike diaries Day 10 and Cambodia motorbike diaries Day 1!

From: Saigon

To: Phnom Penh 

Distance: 270 kms

Oh God, the border was so sketchy. 

On the Vietnamese side you come upon a big building which is NOT the border control office. I was then asked to go around to another building.

That place was full of non official people trying to scam people into getting their passports “stamped”. And trying to tell me that I can’t take my bike. 

The bike laws are sketchy at best. On a bad day you can lose your bike, since driving itself without a Vietnamese license is illegal. 

So I did what people usually say in their blogs, don’t mention the bike at all. 

The Vietnamese border control was inside a warehouse where the entry gate wasn’t even marked that it was an entry gate. 

I parked my bike outside and walked in. One guy was trying to help me with something but I ignored him and asked him to leave me alone. 

After getting an exit stamp on my passport, I got out of the warehouse, went back to my back and walked with it a few metres. Then drove some 300-400 metres to the Cambodian office. 

There were 2-3 spots in a row and it was hard to figure out where to leave the bike. I left it before a barrier, next to the visa counter. 

I had gotten an E-visa so I went inside the office. I had to fill a form, go to an immigration officer and then exit. The exit gate would leave me some 50 metres away from the bike, towards Cambodia. It wasn’t very clear whether you could go back towards the entry gate after getting your passport stamped. 

So there was this risk of losing the bike and losing my backpack that was on the bike. I didn’t want to remove my backpack so that I could rush out quick after the stamping. I imagined scenarios where I would plead for the backpack. 

I walked back to the bike casually as if this is something I did every month. I got on the bike but then someone suggested I should walk with it. After a couple of seconds an officer stopped me. I thought this is the part where I shell out that 20$ bribe.

Fortunately he just saw my passport and let me through! I drove out of there right away and got out. Only when I was a kilometre away, did I stop to adjust my stuff. 

Crazy experience!

Vietnam motorbike diaries – Day 4 (Phong Nha to Khe Sanh), Random adventures #3

Today’s distance: 225 kms

Aah interesting day today, that combines my random adventures series and motorbike diaries. 

Next major stop after Phong Nha towards south is the city Hue. You can chose to go the straight highway route which is roughly 200 kms or you can choose a better, more scenic route which is close to 375 kms and do it over two days. I chose the latter option since it’s about the journey and not the destination. My stop being Khe Sanh. 

The first 100 kms were amazing. Winding roads with zero traffic and one bike crossing every 20 mins. 

Then it started getting cloudy and I felt like it might be time to finally use my rain trousers. I wear my rain jacket and a fleece, normally while riding, to protect against the wind. I stopped and shuffled through my backpack to get the trousers. 
It started raining, as expected, and kept pouring for the next 80 kms. It got foggy as well. 

Soon the gloves were wet, palms were aching and the ride was getting shitty. At one point I even slipped a little but didn’t fall since the speed wasn’t that high. 

Took a stop in this shelter for 10-15 mins to grab a bite:

Someone had suggested on a Facebook group yesterday, to carry extra petrol since there are no gas stations in the entire stretch and then you could end up getting charged a much higher price by the local guys. Phoebe can only hold 4.5-5 litres and I got a 1.5 litre bottle extra with me. 
At around the 200 km mark, the tank was empty and it was time to fill Phoebe up. I started with the ritual of taking my backpack of her and releasing the bunjee cords. 
What I did next was the stupidest thing I could’ve done! While I was filling Phoebe, I kept my bike keys inside the back area of the bike where the tank is. And I shut the lid! Then when I was got the backpack on again, and looked for my keys I couldn’t find them. Since they were inside the back area! 

Fuck! 

Vivek, why do you have to make things more adventurous! 

There was no way to start the bike without key and there was no way to get the key without having the key itself to open the back cover. 

Just then I saw two other backpackers crossing on their bikes. We had been going to and fro the entire day ahead of each other. I waved at them to stop. 

We tried using their key to try and open the area. Didn’t work. The other option was to break the back lid. Tried that for the next 5 mins or so with an aluminium handle the French guy was carrying. I then saw that the seat could be lifted around the corners a little and by using enough force and remembering where I had placed my key, I could sneak it out! 

Woah! Ass saved! 
I had even contemplated sleeping in the abandoned building in front of where this happened, to save the 14$ for acco at Khe Sanh. 

I rode for a few kms and saw the guys again. I stopped to say hi again. They were Norwegian and French. We were 25kms from Khe Sanh and the sun had come out. Apparently this place hadn’t received much rain. I saw a motel up front and found it to be much cheaper than acco at Khe Sanh (7$ after bargaining). All 3 of us took rooms here.

At the restaurant in front I had the cheapest Pho I’ve ever had. Tasty as well! 10k dong, half a dollar or 30 Indian Rupees. 

Now time to listen to some Vietnamese music and chill for the evening

Random adventures #2

This one is about new year in Vietnam. 

So I was playing pool at my hostel in Nin Binh and at around 11:15 pm, the hostel guy who bartends comes in animated and asks “Who wants to see some fireworks?!” 

I join the two local guys and a couple from Netherlands and am lead to a jeep. The jeep turns out to be US military style jeep with big speakers and DJ music running on it! 

We then proceed to drive around the town for the next 45 minutes, while I’m almost freezing because I’m just wearing a light fleece and wasn’t prepared for riding around, all the time thinking how the heck did I even get into this situation!? We finally did see a few fireworks and the guys I was with were overjoyed 🙂

Vietnam motorbike diaries – Day 1 (Hanoi to Ninh Binh)

First intercity day with Phoebe, after 9 days in Vietnam.

From: Hanoi

To: Ninh Binh

Distance: 130 kms

It was a fun ride. Phoebe runs at 60 kmph comfortably and could go up to 80. I liked riding her between 50-60. Can sound like a helicopter though. Haha. These Vietnamese bikes are barely reliable, let’s see how it goes in the future.

There were some good views on the way:


I came across this temple as well:


My hostel in Ninh Binh has spectacular views:


City looks cool:


And I had the best vegetarian food I’ve had in Vietnam. It was tofu in tomato sauce and tasted really good. Sometimes food in Vietnam can be colourful but lacks in taste, but not in this case. And this was just 25k dong or 1$ for so much food:


Still a long way South and I already feel time is less 😉

Random adventures #1

So this is the first random adventure on this trip. It’s been a week now and I’m at Cat Ba islands in Vietnam. I didn’t take my bike with me on this one and made this a sort of side trip. My bike adventures will start when I get back to Hanoi. 

Wanting to see sunrise at Cat Ba, I asked my hostel guys to tell me where the best place is, to see this. They told me to go to Cannon Fort. I asked the time and one guy said “Go at 4, 4:30”. I said “alright”. 

I woke up next morning at 4:20 and got ready to go. It looked quite dark so I hung around till 4:50. The place wasn’t far, but when I reached the gates were closed. I had read on wikitravel, that there’s an entree fee of 40k dong. It also told me that there is another path before the entrance that leads to a place with similar views and is free. The adventurer in me took this opportunity and decided to head out. 

It was pitch dark and I was a little scared but I started walking on the trail using my phone torch. Praying the entire time that I don’t find dogs, I walked for about 10 mins and reached a place that had a few homes. And then it happened, the barks tore the silence. Hoping the dog wasn’t lose, I immediately turned around, backtracked my steps, came to my bike and left.